See also Riverdalian Archive
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Front Yards in Bloom - Winterscapes 2016
Posted December 30, 2015
About: The City of Edmonton is holding a contest for best winterscapes in city neighbourhoods.
Nominations: You can nominate a winterscape in Riverdale for a Winterscape Award. In addition, as someone who provides a nomination, your name will be entered in a draw for a prize.
Winterscape Categories: Winter Garden | Winter Art | Winter Play
Deadline: Nominations will be accepted between January 11 to February 21, 2016
More Info: Download the handbill (PDF) or visit the City of Edmonton website.
When I read Curb’s recent issue on “placemaking,” I couldn’t help but think how important public places sometimes escape our notice. This is, in fact, understandable. The best public spaces develop in an organic and authentic way. They become such a seamless part of our landscape and our lives that we take them for granted. There is a lesson here: we are often blind to what is special until we are at risk of losing it.
One example of such a public place is Edmonton’s Cloverdale footbridge. One would be hard-pressed to find a more successful public place in the city. The 104 Street farmer’s market on a summer Saturday would probably come closest, but because the footbridge is popular every day, year-round, and arguably draws a more diverse crowd, it still wins out. It would make a fascinating study for an urban planner.
Yet the Cloverdale footbridge’s value as a public space has been overlooked, and now it is threatened with demolition. Our city council and transportation department apparently don’t see any problem in tearing it down and replacing it with a massive, concrete LRT bridge, turning what is currently a designated natural area into a new transportation corridor, with trains running overhead every five minutes.
Unfortunately, the public involvement process that might have caught this oversight never happened. The city’s “West and SE LRT Public Involvement Report 2008-2009” states, “The corridor selection process is not designed, nor intended, to collaborate with community and stakeholders to determine a recommended route.” The result, of course, is that the route was determined solely by engineers. And an engineer’s job is to consider function, not public spaces. There will still be, the engineers have noted, a pedestrian platform.
However, the footbridge is not popular because it is a functional means of crossing the river. People choose the footbridge and linger on it in a way they don’t over any other bridge because it is the only non-vehicle crossing in the downtown river valley, and arguably the best place to enjoy the river. It is tranquil, open to the sky, and offers green space—parks, gardens, and forest—at both ends. It thus links not just the north and south banks of the river, but rather it links people to nature, right in the heart of the city, and it also links them to each other.
The footbridge is used on a daily basis by elderly people with canes, young families pushing baby strollers, teenagers on skateboards, couples kissing, groups on Segways, tourists and locals alike pausing to admire the view of downtown, musicians, walkers, cyclists, runners, people in wheelchairs, dog-walkers, and pedestrian commuters heading to or from work downtown. The bridge’s wooden railings are covered in carved hearts with initials, and it is a popular spot for marriage proposals and wedding photos.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (needed for the project to proceed) missed all the above. It had only this to say about the social use of the footbridge: “Rates of use for the Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge are unknown, making it difficult to quantitatively assess impacts; however, it is a connector for many routes between the city center and south-central neighbourhoods…and is purported to be used by both commuter [sic] and recreationists” (197). The city didn’t even bother to count users.
When the group Save Edmonton’s Downtown Footbridge pushed the city to actually do a count last summer, the findings were as follows:
Public transit should replace cars, not parks and public spaces. Running the LRT through the Cloverdale footbridge corridor fundamentally undermines the sustainability of this public transportation project, because maintaining the livability of a city’s core is the biggest factor in preventing sprawl in the first place. Public transit should enhance the places that make a city good and unique, and make it easier for people to get to these places; it should not destroy them.